Assistive Technology Resources

Highlighted AT Device Loan Program

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Pennsylvania�s AT Lending Library

The Institute on Disabilities, University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, at Temple University in Philadelphia is the lead agency for Pennsylvania�s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT). Established in 1992, PIAT maintains Assistive Technology Resource Centers (ATRCs) in locations across the Keystone state: Community Resources for Independence, Three Rivers Center for Independent Living, Life and Independence for Today, United Disability Services, Center for Independent Living of Northcentral Pennsylvania, United Cerebral Palsy of Central PA, UCP of Northeastern PA, and Easter Seals.

As a result of conducive public policy (the �Governor�s Disability Agenda� set by then-Governor Ridge) and advocacy, in 1997 the Pennsylvania General Assembly appropriated funds to provide free equipment loans to people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians across the state. As the designated �lead agency� for the Assistive Technology Act program, the Institute on Disabilities was designated to implement Pennsylvania�s Assistive Technology Lending Library. Funded by private contributions as well as federal and state dollars, Pennsylvania�s Technology Lending Library partners with 170 volunteer �local branches� to promote the program and assist consumers in completing loan applications. State funding for the program has ranged from $500,000 to $890,000, and the 2005-06 appropriation is anticipated at $810,000. In addition, the program leverages contributions from vendors and manufacturers as well as from individuals who have benefited from the program.

In order to serve as many potential consumers as possible, Pennsylvania�s Assistive Technology Lending Library (the �Lending Library�) contacted organizations throughout Pennsylvania with the goal of placing a local branch in each of the state�s 67 counties. For effective outreach, the device loan program sought applications from organizations to establish local branches that were already natural sources of information and assistance for persons with disabilities. Given the geography and demographics of the state, it was recognized that there was a need to provide Pennsylvanians easier access to assistive technology resources. The program targeted local branches in places where people could meet�non-profit and advocacy organizations, resource centers, libraries, local governments, independent living centers, colleges, and volunteers in the business community.

To qualify as a local branch, volunteer agencies must adhere to access requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and agree to provide the following:

1. Outreach information about the Assistive Technology Lending Library.
2. General assistance to consumers regarding the Assistive Technology Lending Library inventory.
3. Referral to other resources for evaluations, assistance with product selection, more information regarding items in the lending library catalog, and referral for funding assistance.
4. Assistance to consumers regarding completion of the device loan application.

Local branches also provide optional services:

1. Information to consumers regarding status of device loan applications.
2. Interim contact with consumers during their loan period.
3. Follow-up contact with late returns.
4. Free set-up and training on assistive technology devices.
5. House a selection of assistive technology devices for demonstration and use in outreach efforts.

In addition to publicity, visibility, and public recognition, local branches receive the following:

1. Assistive Technology Lending Library resource inventory book and information about the policies, procedures, and inventory of the library.
2. Materials relating to promoting the Assistive Technology Lending Library, applications, and general assistive technology information, in print and alternate formats including a quarterly newsletter, the AT Focus.
3. Training and technical assistance.
4. Invitations to attend product trainings demonstrations and trainings, either at reduced or no cost.
5. Opportunities to host training events.

Access to functional equipment is extremely important since assistive technology is expensive and often cannot be returned or easily replaced if a poor purchase decision has been made. The current inventory includes an extensive selection of devices that help people communicate with others, control their environment, hear what others are saying, perform everyday activities, access computers, and read printed materials. Those who wish to borrow a device can call toll free to obtain a loan application or pick one up from a local lending library branch or download an application from the web.

The centralized inventory is housed in southwestern Pennsylvania. There is no cost to consumers for delivery and pickup of loan devices, which is handled through UPS. 2004-05 shipping costs are expected to reach $100,000. A specified loan period is displayed in the equipment catalog and a borrower who requires assistance learning how to use a device can call a regional ATRC toll free to locate available resources for assistance or services of a support person. The Lending Library does not provide such support, although minimal trouble-shooting may be available by phone.

ATRCs play a key role in assuring the library is �consumer responsive� while at the same time consumers are �responsible borrowers.� ATRCs follow a set of policies and procedures that help maintain communication with borrowers and reduce loss (e.g. notice of when the device is going to be shipped, or if they have to wait for a device, suggestion of alternate devices: reminder of approaching the end of the loan period; follow up with devices that are returned with missing components).

Borrowers receive a �Satisfaction Survey� several weeks after an item is returned. This survey also asks for a report on any outcomes, including plans to purchase the device (and who will pay). The survey also directs borrowers to contact Pennsylvania�s Initiative on Assistive Technology for additional assistance in identifying the devices and services they need, or for assistance in finding funding for those devices and services. The evaluation component is funded through federal dollars, as is a portion of staff support in processing applications in SE Pennsylvania.

This section is indebted to information from the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North American (RESNA), especially for their April, 2005, Survey of State AT Act Projects (The RESNA Technical Assistance Project, Grant #H224B020001, funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998).

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